Congressional Republicans are really struggling to come up with a strategy for avoiding the blame if they refuse to raise the debt limit, allowing the Treasury to pay off the debts that Congress already voted to incur.
Newt Gingrich already warned his party that holding the debt limit hostage again is a “dead loser” because “the whole national financial system is going to come in to Washington and on television and say: ‘Oh my God, this will be a gigantic heart attack, the entire economy of the world will collapse. You guys will be held responsible.’ And they’ll cave.”
Then GOP leadership team member Rep. Tom Cole expressed disapproval with Speaker Boehner’s suggestion of monthly debt limit votes, and the Senate Republican leader refused to explicitly back it.
Now as conservatives try to wriggle out of the box they’ve built for themselves, they are getting increasingly delusional.
A former member of the Bush Administration, Keith Hennessy, is generating buzz among conservatives for this bizarre “threat”: either Democrats accept deep spending cuts, “one dollar of spending cuts for each dollar of debt limit increase,” or (cue threatening music) the debt ceiling will be raised with mostly Democratic votes every three months.
Eek! Not that!
Hennessy thinks Dems will fear a “‘Democratic debt limit increase’ message every three months” and cave. The Washington Post’s in-house GOP operative Jennifer Rubin concurs, saying “The best they can do is make Democrats start voting and present the country with proof that only one party wants to reform entitlements.”
But the party in power routinely raises the debt limit without anyone noticing or caring. And if reforming entitlements was such a popular position, why is it that Republicans spent the last three years accusing President Obama of cutting Medicare?
Republicans got themselves into deep water the last few years by predicating strategy on assumptions that were detached from reality: people will respect a House budget that junks Medicare, women don’t care about contraception, Paul Ryan will appeal to young voters, etc. It doesn’t appear that they have kicked that habit yet.
Most notably, all of these ideas involve … letting the debt limit rise. Not forcing America to default.
Just as Republicans were more afraid of being blamed for the fiscal cliff than Tea Party primary challenges, they are terrified of being blamed for a global economic catastrophe.